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January 25, 2013
Tall order on tap as OU heads to Lawerence
The Sooners own a winning record against every founding member of the Big 12 conference to date save one: the Jayhawks. Since the conference's formation, the Sooners have won just four of their 21 games against Kansas, and all of those have come at Lloyd Noble Center.
"Every game has unique challenges," Oklahoma men's basketball coach Lon Kruger said. "This game has a few more than most."
SCOOPHD: OKLAHOMA TRAVELS TO LAWRENCE TO TAKE ON JAYHAWKS
No team has consistently beaten Oklahoma (13-4. 4-1 Big 12) in the manner Kansas has. The Sooners have ventured into Allen Fieldhouse 86 times and lost 70 of those meetings.
OU's last win at Lawrence came in 1993.
Perspective: In 1993, the cost of a gallon of gas averaged $1.16, movie tickets cost an average of $4.14 and tuition at Harvard University was $23,514. Some Sooners weren't even thinking about sports the last time Oklahoma beat Kansas at the Phog.
"I was 3 years old," senior forward Romero Osby said. "Well, 2 years old. I didn't turn 3 until May, so I don't know what I was doing. I was probably sucking a bottle or something like that. I didn't know anything about basketball. I know that."
How about you, Amath M'Baye? What were you doing in 1993?
"I was 4 years old," he said. "Probably just being very cute, very handsome like I am today."
And you, Buddy Hield?
"I was just crawling in 1993," he said. "I was born in 1992. You sure? 1993? Blake (Griffin) and them didn't beat them? Well, we've got to end that streak now then. Buddy Love's in town, and they better watch out."
You could say the Sooners are due for a win against Kansas at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Phog, and you might be right. But the odds, no matter how you stack them, are decidedly in KU's favor.
All told, Kansas (17-1, 5-0 Big 12) has dominated the 93-year-old rivalry 138-64 and won the last nine straight meetings between itself and OU. This year Jayhawk men's basketball coach Bill Self has assembled a team as good as any in the nation, let alone the Big 12.
The Big 12's last remaining unbeaten team in conference play is led by freshman phenom Ben McLemore, and he has become the Jayhawks' talisman, averaging 16.1 points per game. He's scored double figures in every Big 12 game he's played and is projected to be a top 10 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
"Offensively, they share the ball," Kruger said. "They move it. They've got good inside, outside threats, and that's why they're one of the top two or three teams in the country."
McLemore also receives plenty of help on the wings from senior guards Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson. Releford and Johnson combine to averaged 22.5 points per game and aren't afraid to help crash the boards with senior center Jeff Withey.
Withey has helped seal Kansas' dominance in a breakout senior season that sees him averaging 13.0 points, 8.3 boards and 4.6 blocks per game. Withey, a true seven-footer, gives the Jayhawks a decided edge against the much smaller Sooner forwards.
Osby has fared well against larger post players this season, but none of them have had the size and skill of Withey.
"He's a good shot-blocker," Osby said. "He's a good defensive player. We've got to respect that. But at the same time the key to going at a shot-blocker is to continue to attack him."
Osby has played his best basketball to start OU's Big 12 schedule. Since conference play opened against West Virginia, he's averaged 19.5 points per game.
When he's playing well, the Sooners play their best basketball, and they'll need to do that and more of in the remainder of the regular season.
Last season, Oklahoma won just three games after Jan. 21 and let what could've been its first winning season in three years end in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. This season, the Sooners have said they've stilled themselves for the homestretch, but only time will tell if their will is will enough.
"You're talking about making it to the NCAA tournament you've got to win in your conference," Osby said. "It's that simple. You can't lose in February and March and expect to go to the NCAA tournament or to be taken seriously enough to be there."